Edited by Markus Reihlen and Andreas Werr
Chapter 5: Innovating through clients
One of the main characteristics of professional services is the involvement of clients in the delivery of these services (Fosstenløkken, Løwendahl & Revang, 2003; Kubr, 1996; Larsen, 2001; Sharma, 1997) and in the creation of professional knowledge (Bettencourt, Ostrom, Brown & Roundtree, 2002; Engwall & Kipping, 2002; Fosstenløkken et al., 2003; Greenwood & Lachman, 1996; Hislop, 2002; Larsen, 2001; Mills and Morris, 1986; Sarvary, 1999). Therefore, many researchers argue that client–professional interactions are the “laboratory” for professional innovations (Gallouj & Weinstein, 1997: 546; also Davenport & Prusak, 2005; Fosstenløkken et al., 2003; Gadrey & Gallouj, 1998; Gann & Salter, 2000; Leiponen, 2006b; Morris & Empson, 1998), a view also confirmed by practitioners, as the following quote shows: “We have enormous opportunity to innovate in the consulting business because our clients represent an almost limitless laboratory” (a BCG consultant, cited in Stalk, 1999: 70). Therefore, this stream of research is based on the implicit assumption that professional services are inherently innovative because of their customized nature. Moreover, given that professional service innovations are the result of the customization of services, the process that leads to innovations in professional services is seen as a strategic, cooperative service delivery process (e.g. Alam, 2006; Alam & Perry, 2002; de Brentani, 1991, 2001; Gadrey & Gallouj, 1998; Gann & Salter, 2000; Mills, Chase & Margulies, 1983; Sundbo, 1998), in which the client is a willing participant, that is, a co-creator and co-producer of professional knowledge and ideas (Bettencourt et al., 2002; Fosstenløkken et al., 2003; Skjølsvik, Løwendahl, Kvålshaugen & Fosstenløkken, 2007). Accordingly, the relation between the client and the professionals is regarded as functional or contributory; clients’ motivation and ability to participate in the process and clients’ “strategic fi t” with the service provider are identifi ed as crucial factors contributing to the success of the innovation process (e.g. Alam, 2006; Lengnick-Hall, 1996). Therefore, this group of research takes a “functionalist” view of the innovation process in professional services and the role the client plays in it.
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